David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Bradford City’ Category

Bye Nahki Wells

Friday, January 17th, 2014

NahkiWellsHe limped off injured in the first half against Swindon over Christmas and that was the last time we saw star striker Nahki Wells play in the claret and amber of Bradford City before his switch across West Yorkshire to arch rivals Huddersfield Town – many fans including me asked the question why them? Of all the teams why Huddersfield, by all accounts he had his pick of a few but opted for the blue and white of The Terriers.

To be fair, the move to Town probably makes sense for Nahki. He won’t have to move house assuming he is settled in the area and will now be in the Championship. Do Huddersfield have ambitions of the Premier League? I’d probably say they do, they’ve got a very wealthy owner in Dean Hoyle and that could carry them further than the current position they have, but more importantly for Wells he will get regular game time than if he had gone to a QPR or a Leicester for example. At such clubs with large resources and big squads he might not have played week in week out, which he will at The Galpharm.

His last minute winner for Huddersfield was as predictable as it was annoying but is was so typical of Wells, a instinctive first time finish is something we’ve all come to see all to regularly in the last two years at Valley Parade. In the end we have to remember that both player and club were good for each other. Bradford have helped progress Nahki’s career and likewise his goals fired The Bantams to promotion and a major club final.

On one hand I really want Nahki to go on and be the Premier League striker that I believe he can be. Without question he is a unbelievable talent and it would be nice to say that at Bradford we set him on his road to stardom, but then on the other hand we would also be saddened in the way he left.

His exit has been softened by that of the arrival of Aaron McLean, who is a proven goal scorer at this level albeit a few seasons back now whilst at Peterborough United. He should add goals to the team – fingers crossed filling the void left by Wells. His arrival will hopefully give the whole club a boost. I’m sure all the speculation in recent weeks and months about the ‘will-he-won’t-he’ move of Wells will have affected Phil Parkinson and the squad, so hopefully now we can get back to some normality.

Aside of McLean I’d like to think more arrivals will come in before the end of the transfer window, I still believe we are missing a goal scoring midfielder as no one currently is capable of doing that on a regular basis. Traditionally Bradford go with Nathan Doyle and Gary Jones in the centre and both are more defensive minded midfielder than attacking ones.

Results have been poor over the last few months. The club are without a home win for around four months now and a lot of draws have been collected over the winter months, which has seen The Bantams drop out of the play-off picture and down to mid table, which is probably at this stage more our level than the top six.

Had someone at the start of the season offered a mid-table finish I’m sure most Bradford fans would have taken it. However, the good start that had us right in the play-off picture up until October might have changed some fans views. I suppose as a club we were on a crest of a wave in those early months, fresh from promotion and with a confident squad, which showed earlier in the season, but once injuries and suspensions kicked in the problems have come, and since then the team has dropped down to 12th in the league.

Over the last two or three months, despite the poor results, we have as a club seen the emergence of our young talented striker Oli McBurnie. The youth player has been given his first professional contract in recent weeks and has started two games, whilst also appearing more and more off the bench.

McBurnie certainly has potential, and I’m pleased Parkinson has signed a proven goal scorer in McLean which I think will help McBurnie long term. Had the pressure been on young Oli now to get the goals that might have been difficult, but by allowing him at this stage to grow into games in a bit part role I believe it will benefit him hugely going forward. I firmly believe that in 18 months to two years, if he keeps progressing, then Bradford will have a real player on their hands.

Personally, I’d be happy to finish the season strongly and push into the top ten. That for me will be a excellent first season back in League One. From there we will see how things progress, but for now it feels like a end of a era with Wells going – the class of 2012-13 that served us superbly well and will go down as history makers is being slowly broken up and remoulded.

The Bantams may have levelled out for the time being in League One but I firmly believe Phil Parkinson is the right man to go again and eventually takes us back into where I believe we should be – the Championship.

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87

More of the same please

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

BCFC

New season but same old Bradford would do very nicely for the 2013 / 2014 League One season. Having reached a major domestic cup final and gained promotion last season the squad Phil Parkinson had put together last summer needed only minor tweaking going into the League One campaign.

For me The Bantams shouldn’t be fearful of what League One might hold, plenty of clubs get promoted from League Two and then have successful campaigns the following season. I’d be disappointed if come May Bradford have been fighting relegation, as I firmly believe we are better than that – can Bradford get back to back promotions, probably not if we are being honest about things but I certainly believe we can push the play-off places close.

Transfer news has been quite coming out of Valley Parade, although ex-Rochdale midfielder Jason Kennedy has joined The Bantams on a free transfer along with ex-Watford winger Mark Yeates who has sparkled in pre-season from the left wing. Former Swindon Town man Raffaele De Vita who has spent pre-season with The Bantams has signed a one year contract to further boost the quality that is already in the ranks.

Aside of the players coming in the major struggle that all Bradford fans thought Parkinson would have has been keeping hold of the star players that impressed so much throughout last season. The likes of Andrew Davies and Nathan Doyle were out of contract this summer but both opted to stay. Nahki Wells who netted 26 league goals last season has been subjected to speculation for the past 12 months or so since he really came to prominence, Peterborough are the only club that have made their offer public the club have since said that they are the only club to date that have formally made a offer and it was way short of what would be needed to get the Bermudan’s services.

The only first team player to leave Valley Parade was keeper Matt Duke who joined the side Bradford beat to secure promotion Northampton Town, Duke was a hero of the cup run making numerous saves in both the games and penalty shoot-outs but his form was patchy in the league throughout his time at the club and realistically would only of been 2nd choice to whoever starts the new season as No.1. Duke will never be forgotten for what he helped the club achieve and will go down in folklore at Valley Parade.

Pre-season results have been good although you can’t read too much in them. A win over local non-league side Guiseley was followed up by a trip to Ireland where Phil Parkinson’s men beat League of Ireland sides Athlone and Bohemians. Last time out The Bantams secured another win against non-league opposition this time in the form of Grimsby Town. The Bantams did lose 2-1 to Championship side Doncaster Rovers but results mean nothing in my opinion in pre-season it’s all about getting the fitness right and avoiding any injuries.

The Bantams have a tough start to life in League One with newly relegated Bristol City first up at Ashton Gate this Saturday; realistically you’d expect the likes of Bristol City, Wolves, Sheffield United to be challenging for automatic promotion. So if Bradford can come away with anything on Saturday I’d be very impressed. Like I wrote earlier I do generally believe Bradford have the makings of having a successful season in the league, the problem that hinder progress is the fact Phil Parkinson has assembled a relatively small number of players for the squad that squad is full of quality but soon as injuries and suspensions grab hold and they will do at some point during the season then it will be interesting to see how the fringe players step up to the mark last season they did so impressively with Carl McHugh in particular proving a real find as he capitalised on the long term injuries to both Davies and Luke Oliver.

I think the key to a successful season is making a solid start with some tough looking fixtures in August it might be difficult for Bradford to do that but providing no one leaves before the transfer window shuts and in particular that no one being a certain Mr Wells then I believe The Bantams will be ok, take away the goals Wells will bring to the table and then we might be in trouble.

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87

All aboard the League One Train

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Finally after years of having to witness journeymen pros and dross football along with relegations, Bradford have started their march back up the leagues and they did it in style. If you could guarantee promotion at the start of any season it would be to go up via the Play-Offs at Wembley and on Saturday at the home of English football promotion was secured inside the opening thirty minutes as Bradford blew Northampton Town apart producing their best performance of the season when it really mattered. First half goals from James Hanson, Rory McArdle and Nahki Wells propelled the Bantams back into League One.

Bradford can now swap Wycombe for Wolves, Southend United for Sheffield United and Chesterfield for Coventry. The fixture list will look a lot better, bigger clubs coming to Valley Parade will generate more revenue, there will be a better atmosphere at the games as bigger crowds will be in attendance – it might sound big headed but Bradford should be playing the likes of Wolves and Sheffield United as opposed to Accrington and Dagenham unfortunately though over the last few years Bradford have been at their right level because results simply haven’t been good enough.

The class of 2012 / 2013 will live long in the memory it’s hard to say they haven’t just produced Bradford’s best season ever. A League Cup Final appearance beating the likes of Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa over two legs en-route and securing promotion in the same season – sensational! Even more sensational given the fact this is by a League Two side who completed a staggering 64 games only Chelsea domestically completed more fixtures this season.

This season has been my best since I started watching Bradford I’ve seen promotion from what now is League One when City beat Notts County in the play-offs in 1996, I’ve seen promotion to the premier league and staying up there after beating Liverpool on the final day but this season has been truly remarkable. In a way I feel sorry for fans that support other teams this season as Bradford have had so many unbelievable highs. Other clubs have had extreme highs like Watford’s play-off drama against Leicester, Doncaster against Brentford and other teams will have had similar situations but it just seems Bradford had so many highs. In one season I’ve probably been able to add five games into my all time 10 favourite Bradford games – surely that is unheard of?!

Beating Arsenal on penalties after drawing the game 1-1 was amazing, surely it couldn’t be beaten then City beat Aston Villa 3-1 yes 3-1! In the semi final first leg, what scenes when Carl McHugh rose like a salmon late on to get the third…again surely it couldn’t be beaten but it did when James Hanson headed home at Villa Park to give the Bantams that vital away goal that sent them to Wembley – let’s be honest a League Two side shouldn’t get to a major domestic cup final and it probably won’t ever happen again, a historic moment and something I feel proud to have witnessed.

For all the highs of beating the premier league sides the 3-1 win away at Burton in the second leg of the play-offs is well up there with the Arsenal and Villa games. Having seen Burton comfortably beat City at Valley Parade I feared the worst heading to The Pirelli Stadium but again when it really mattered City rose to the challenge and produced a superb performance against what was the best home record in the country and just like at Villa Park my glasses decided to go walkies after Wells tucked away the third of the afternoon…..scenes!

Then you have the final itself. I fully expected Bradford to beat Northampton, the experience of being at Wembley before for the Swansea game I thought would help Bradford players relax whereas The Cobblers visiting for the first time would be nervous. Despite Northampton finishing higher in the league, player for player City are a much better side in my opinion and I think that showed in the final. Don’t get me wrong Northampton are a good side and I’d back them to do well next season but on the day they couldn’t cope with the Bantams.

This week Phil Parkinson his assistant Steve Parkin and fitness coach Nick Allemby (unsung hero!) have all signed three year contract extensions. The trio were out of contract next month but have now committed their long term futures to the club. Now that’s been resolved then the need to keep the out of contract key players becomes a massive task will City be able to keep the likes of Nathan Doyle and Andrew Davies personally I can’t see it happening. They’ve both had immense seasons and clubs in the Championship will be looking closely at them. That leaves City with their jewel in the crown Bermudan Nahki Wells 26 goals and a string of fine performances he will be a much sort after signing during the summer break. Already less than a week after the season has finished both Crystal Palace and Burnley are rumoured to be readying themselves with the cheque book the latter if the papers have anything to do with it, will pay as much as 2 million pound for his signature.

If and it is a big if Parkinson can keep the likes of Davies, Doyle and Wells and add in the correct areas I generally don’t see why Bradford can’t compete and challenge for a mid table to play-off place finish. It will be difficult but I believe the Bantams are well equipped to go again and challenge, Mark Lawn one of the co-chairmen has already indicated money will be provided to strengthen and I trust Phil Parkinson to strengthen the team wisely.

For now though it’s all about basking in the sun and enjoying the moment Bradford after all have just secured promotion to the third tier of English football. Some Bantams fans are fretting over the possible departures of Wells, Davies and the like and yes they might go to clubs higher up the leagues which means City as a club have achieved success. If Bradford had struggled would other clubs want the same players probably not, unfortunately City will probably be victims of their own success when it comes to the players who leave.

The journey home on the minibus from Wembley will live long in the memory, plenty of songs were sung including live on 606 to Darren Fletcher and Jason Roberts who got treated to a rendition of “oooohhhh Stephen Darby baby” and “we are going up”. This season has been City’s time, so many times the fans have had to sit back and watch other clubs celebrate success, well for the first time in a long time the Bantams have had their turn.

WE ARE GOING UP, SAY WE ARE GOING UP! WE ARE GOING UP, SAY WE ARE GOING UP!!!

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87

A Season to Remember – History Makers

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

At the start of the 2012 / 2013 season if anyone had said you will watch your club beat three Premier League sides and reach the Capital One Cup Final at Wembley (as a League Two side!) and reach the play-offs then I would of snapped their hands off and also told them to go seek medical advice. This really has been a season to remember, after a decade of dire football and depressing results this season has well and truly brought all that passion back and once again reminded me why I travel the motorways watching Bradford City – this season is why I love football, memories have been made that will never be forgotten.

The cup run didn’t quite have the fairy tale ending as Swansea City ran out easy 5-0 winners in the League Cup Final in February, however it wasn’t really about the result for Bradford the mere fact that The Bantams had even reached the final in the first place was an outstanding achievement one that in truth will probably never be repeated.

The journey the club and the fans have had this season has been immense, some of the best memories if not the best since I’ve been watching The Bantams have been made. I’ve seen promotions from Division Two via the play-offs, I’ve seen us finish runners-up in Division One and promoted to the Premier League. I witnessed staying in the top flight and our short adventure into the Intertoto Cup but for me this season has eclipsed all that has gone before because of the simple fact that a League Two club shouldn’t of achieved what Phil Parkinson’s men accomplished.

The win away at Wigan Athletic was amazing, personally I believe Bradford to be a bigger club than Wigan regardless of league standings. The fact we went to the DW Stadium and knocked them out on penalties was amazing. Next up Arsenal, with all their super stars in attendance I expected a heavy defeat whilst watching the likes of Cazorla and Wilshire ooze class, that didn’t happen and in my eyes Bradford were unlucky not to win the game in normal time having nullified Arsenal for long periods of the game.

For the first time in a long while Valley Parade was packed to the rafters, the atmosphere was electric bringing back memories of the premier league days. Garry Thompson volleyed home to send The Bantams faithful wild and it looked for so long that there was to be a giant killing only for Thomas Vermaelen to pop up late in the game to head home an equaliser. Extra time came and went with the superb Matt Duke denying Santi Cazorla before becoming a further cup hero by saving the penalties that sent Bradford into the Semi Final of the Capital One Cup.

The special moment of the cup run came against Aston Villa to knock out any premier league side is special but to do it over two legs it’s a remarkable feat. The late header by Carl McHugh in the first leg to send The Bantams to Villa Park with a 3-1 lead was in my view the pivotal moment of the tie. However the moment when James Hanson bulleted Gary Jones’s corner in at Villa Park for me is the best moment I’ve had watching City – against all odds a League Two side had made it to a major domestic cup final, and this wasn’t a fluke!

The squad which Phil Parkinson has put together will go down in history and every Bradford fan in years to come will be able to rattle their names off and be looked back on with fond memories whether it’s Rory McArdle’s header to send Bradford 2-0 against Villa, Thompson’s volley against Arsenal, Nahki Wells cool finish past Shay Given for the first against Villa or THAT Hanson header at Villa Park. These players whether at the beginning or end of their careers will never have a season like this ever again.

The final against Swansea was a special day, the sea of claret and amber waving flags and singing songs was special. The atmosphere was unbelievable, especially the last 20-30 minutes when The Bantams faithful decided to go full swing into having a party.

Had the league season just fizzled out after Wembley then that would have been extremely disappointing, but full credit must go to Phil Parkinson and his assistant Steve Parkin for masterminding the league form over the last couple of months. Saturday’s 1-0 win over Burton Albion at Valley Parade cemented The Bantams place at the play-off party for the first time since 1996 when we beat Notts County in the old Division Two. After 37 league games I had all but given up hope of reaching the play-offs sat in 12th place 10 points off 7th with a game in hand and a full 12 points behind Exeter who at the time sat 5th. Fast forward to the completion of round 45 and The Bantams had clinched a minimum return of 7th place pulling 4 points clear of Exeter in the process, who sadly for them and luckily for us have collapsed at completely the wrong time.

Now Bradford can travel to Cheltenham on the last day of the season, knowing it is highly likely the two teams will meet again the following week in the play-off semi finals. Barring a defeat for Rotherham at home to bottom side Aldershot coupled with a win for Cheltenham could see Mark Yates overtake The Millers, chances are that won’t happen so it will be a straight shoot-out between Bradford and Cheltenham for a place at Wembley.

If we make the play-off final and return to Wembley for a second time this season, I certainly won’t be going for a nice day out. I expected to lose to Swansea; personally my cup finals were against Arsenal and Aston Villa. However for a League Two play-off final I expect victory regardless of opposition we are good enough to secure promotion and hopefully in three weeks time we will be back in League One – and finally starting our journey back to where we believe we should be.

Once thing for sure is regardless of promotion the board need to secure the services of Phil Parkinson for the future. He’s out of contract in the summer, and has been linked with various clubs over the past few months. Parkinson has made it clear that he wants to stay but the longer negotiations drag on it opens the door for other clubs to nip in and steal him away for a snip due to him being the near the end of the contract.

Wembley twice in one season?! Let’s hope so……

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87

 

History Makers

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

As que sera sera we’re going to Wembley rang out loud and proud from the thousands of travelling away supporters on Tuesday, shock and disbelief was also etched all over Bradford fans faces. The dream had come true, the unthinkable had become possible – I personally had started to lose my voice and had already broken my glasses, (going giddy celebrating James Hanson’s goal), but the night of the 22nd January 2013 will never be forgotten; it truly was a ‘I was there moment’.

Bradford City had just reached The Capital One Cup Final! After knocking out Premier League side Aston Villa over two legs. In the words of the last manager to take The Bantams to Wembley (Chris Kamara), Unbelievable Jeff!! This wasn’t a fluke, Villa wanted to get to Wembley, over both legs they played their strongest eleven. Lady Luck was shining down on Bradford as the Premier League side missed a string of chances across both games but that’s the magic of the cup!

Bradford might have lost the game 2-1 on the night, but the 3-1 lead we had from the first leg meant there was to be a fairy tale end to a Roy of the Rovers style cup run. Villa, in front of a capacity crowd at Villa Park, came roaring out of the blocks and deservedly took the lead through Benteke. The big striker missed several chances at Valley Parade two weeks ago, but looked to of started the comeback for the home side. However, despite substantial pressure and numerous excellent saves from Matt Duke, Villa just couldn’t get that key second goal.

At half time, I sat there nervous in the away end. Daring to dream that in 45 minutes time my beloved Bantams will be Wembley bound but something had to change, the first half was all Villa – City had to go at Villa. It’s well documented that Paul Lambert’s side are fragile defensively and so it was proven and just like two of the three goals in the first leg, it was to be a header that opened up that fragile Villa defence. Gary Jones delivered a peach of a corner right on to the head of the former Co-op shelf stacker James Hanson. The big man sent the 6,500 away following absolutely mental! Resulting in my glasses coming flying off in the celebrations only to spot a guy two rows in front waving them around, bent and scratched but I wasn’t bothered! We had the two goal cushion again, but more importantly that key away goal, Villa Park was silenced.

Was the dream going to come true just over half an hour to wait. That half an hour lasted a lifetime, having said I thought after Hanson scored Bradford looked very comfortable, the striker had a great chance to double the lead with another header before substitute Garry Thompson hit the bar. Villa were restricted to long range efforts which either went well wide or straight at the superb Matt Duke. The real drama started to kick in just when it looked like City had done enough, with the home side devoid of ideas and the Villa fans streaming out of the ground, a long route one hopeful ball went all the way though allowing Villa sub Weimann to nip in on 89 minutes to round Duke and tap home – Cue 4 minutes of added on time. A professional display continued during that period before Phil Dowd blew the full time whistle sparking absolute wild scenes from the away fans. ‘We’re going to Wembley’ sang out by the Bradford fans who could barely believe their eyes – it took the meter in Villa’s electric cupboard to run out and the lights to go off to get the Bradford fans out of Villa Park.

A fourth division club getting to a major domestic cup final is virtually unheard of, will it happen again anytime soon? Very unlikely I’d imagine. It’s the first time in over 50 years that this has been achieved and the last bottom division side to get to a major cup final was Rochdale, but back then the cup was option for the bigger sides. Having beaten Notts County away, Watford away, Burton Albion home, Wigan Athletic away, Arsenal home and Aston Villa over two legs Bradford have certainly earned their right to be part of the showpiece event. Naturally Swansea are favourites for the final, but then so were the last three Premier League sides that have fallen at the feet of the Bantams.

£7,500 is the amount that’s been spent on the team, and that was all on the former Co-op top shelf stacker. The rest is a team of free transfers and loanees. Some of these players may never get a chance to play at Wembley again especially not under these circumstances. It really is a sensational achievement. The whole cup run and certainly now has put the club back firmly on the map and the national media attention that The Bantams are receiving is brilliant. Since relegation from the Premier League 12 years ago, there has been very little to cheer about. Two administrations and relegations all the way to League Two but this season has been extraordinary. The financial gains from the cup run will set the club up for years to come.

Away from the exploits of the cup, the league form has stuttered in recent weeks with The Bantams dropping down to 10th in the league. Hardly time to push the panic button, but I would like to see City back in the play-offs by the time the cup final comes around at the end of February. The gaffer Phil Parkinson who has masterminded the amazing cup run has turned down an approach from Championship side Blackpool to become there new manager. Andy Gray has rejoined the club from Leeds United to help the likes of James Hanson, Nahki Wells and Alan Connell upfront whilst big defender Michael Nelson has joined from Kilmarnock – where he won the Scottish League Cup last season – maybe it’s an omen…

The 24th February can’t come around some enough, Bradford City-vs-Swansea City….England-vs-Wales and who knows will the dream end. Fans certainly hope it ends with Gary Jones lifting the trophy. We can dream but for me, my dream will be a reality on the 24th. I will seeing the club I’ve supported since a very young age walk out in a major cup final – that will be a sight to savour….

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87

Penalty Kings, Nine Times Over

Friday, December 14th, 2012

My Facebook status on Monday night read “This time tomorrow one of the biggest shocks in the Capital Cup history will be unfolding, semi final bound, in Parkinson we trust.” A throw away comment and one I didn’t believe was realistically possible. Fast forward 24 hours and I had just witnessed what I now describe as my best moment in a football arena; my beloved Bradford City of League Two had knocked out one of the heavyweights of European football Arsenal, and it wasn’t any old Arsenal this was the big guns – a team which consisted of Szczesny, Sagna, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Gervinho, Ramsay, Wilshire, Cazorla, Podolski and Coquelin – pretty much the Gooners first team with the exception of Mikel Arteta.

A capacity crowd of 23,971 roared Bradford on, something I’ve not witnessed since the days of the Premier League well over a decade ago was unbelievable. The moment Garry Thompson volley home to give the underdogs the lead led to wild scenes of joy. I generally thought it was a matter of time before Arsene Wenger’s men came back into the game; striker Gervinho missed an open goal.

However, the moment came just three minutes from time I had started to believe that the impossible was realistically possible and was almost reality. The fact that Bradford looked so comfortable at 1-0 up and for all Arsenal’s pressure hadn’t really made Matt Duke in The Bantams goal make that many saves. Unfortunately though, Belgian centre back Thomas Vermaelen popped up at the back post to head home a simple equaliser and send the game into extra time. Normally I would have been jumping for joy at the prospect of another thirty minutes but on this occasion I was gutted – so close but yet so far.

Normally you get one chance as the underdogs to claim victory, and with Vermaelen’s goal, I thought that was Bradford’s opportunity gone. I imagine up and down the country fans of other clubs would have been rooting for The Bantams and I’m sure those fans felt for City at that moment. Before extra-time was reached Santi Cazorla twice nearly broke Bradford hearts firstly from a free kick and then from the resulting rebound shot, both superbly saved by Matt Duke.

In extra time, the closest anyone came to scoring was once again the classy Cazorla who hit the bar with a long range dipping drive. So it was, perhaps written in the stars, that once again in a cup competition Bradford would do it the hard way or easy way as it has become known in recent times, and attempt to knock Arsenal out of the cup on penalties.

Nathan Doyle and Gary Jones had City 2-0 up after Duke had saved Cazorla’s penalty and Marouane Chamakh had hit the post, Stephen Darby then missed followed by Jack Wilshire’s cool conversion. Next the pressure fell on lifelong Arsenal fan Alan Connell to keep the advantage with The Bantams and he calmly slotted home, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was next up and duly did the business – however a successful conversion by substitute Richie Jones would see League Two Bradford would be lining up in the semi-final of the Capital One Cup, and it wasn’t to be as Jones weak penalty was saved by Szczesny in the Gooners goal.

Thomas Varmaelen stepped up last for Arsenal, the outcome was simple he scores it goes to sudden death he misses and for the first time in Bradford’s history they would make the semi-finals – he sent Duke the wrong way, but straight onto the post the ball went – sparking sensational scenes around Valley Parade. These nights aren’t suppose to happen when you are playing in League Two. We had taken on the wealth of Arsenal’s full first team and come away with our very own pot of gold at the end.

It was another shoot out win for Bradford, making it nine straight penalty knock out wins – a remarkable sequence and will surely be some sort of record.

The early predictions are that the two legged semi-final could pocket Bradford in the region of a million pounds, a huge amount of money at this level. Hopefully it will be the springboard to clinch promotion this season. As much as I’m personally enjoying the cup runs, and nights like beating Wigan away and Arsenal at home, it will count for nothing if next year we are still plying our trade in the basement division.

Away from the Capital One Cup exploits, Bradford are still the only club to be still in every competition this season that they entered, after being reinstated into the FA Cup and fined £1,000 instead. The charge related to loanee defender Curtis Good from Newcastle and his involvement in the game against Brentford.

The club had reached verbal consent that they could play Good in the FA Cup second round game, although on the written consent it has been missed off. Clearly an administrative error and not one to try and cheat our way into the next round, it therefore means the replay will be sandwiched between Southend and Wycombe away – delightful. Merry Christmas Bradford fans!

If Bradford can beat The Bees in the replay at Griffin Park it will set up a 3rd Round date with Southend United away at Roots Hall. Hardly a glamour tie but it will keep the feel good factor around Valley Parade at the moment rolling on.

In the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy ,The Bantams have progressed into the Northern Semi Finals where they will play Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road in early January next year. A tricky game, but if Bradford could get past them, then more than likely Preston North End (who I imagine will beat Bury) or Coventry City will stand in the way of a day out at Wembley. If Bradford could land Coventry or PNE another cash windfall would surely be on the horizon.

Despite all our cup successes, Bradford sit nicely in fourth place in the league after the 1-0 win over Torquay last time out. Full credit has to be given to Phil Parkinson and his coaching staff, but also the players. After the draw to play Arsenal was made there was a month before the game came around, and the team didn’t switch off during that period, rising up to fourth in the league.

The feel good factor has been amazing this season. So many false dawns have been seen at Valley Parade in the last decade and finally we have a team we can be proud of – a long way to go, but all these cup runs will hopefully enable Parkinson to strengthen the squad in the January transfer window. Then we can really see The Bantams kick on and go from strength to strength in the second half of the season.

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87

The clocks go back as Bradford move forward

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Prior to kick off at Northampton Town on Tuesday night Bradford sat in fifth place in the League Two table and at the full time whilst despite The Bantams running out 1-0 winners they finished the day in fifth. Wins elsewhere for Cheltenham and Fleetwood denied Phil Parkinson’s men the chance to jump above our rivals and into the automatic promotion places. The win at the Sixfields Stadium did however move Bradford clear into the play-off places with a three point cushion back to the pack chasing to get into the four elusive positions.

Personally I have been very impressed with how Phil Parkinson’s men have started in the first three months of the season, back in the summer wholesale changes were made and so far the new signings have been really good. The likes of Nathan Doyle and Gary Jones in the middle of the park have run the show against numerous sides this season, whilst some other key signings such as Andrew Davies, James Meredith and Rory McArdle, all of which make up three of the Bantams back four, have been superb.

The season hasn’t been without the odd hiccup along the way, such as the 4-0 mauling The Bantams received at the start of September at Rotherham United and then the 4-3 defeat at Dagenham, having been 3-0 down early in the second half against John Still’s men. What has impressed me most after succumbing to defeat, deserved or not, is how the side has bounced back in the following games. It has really started me believing that Bradford could be firmly in the promotion shake up come May.

It makes a pleasant change for the West Yorkshire side to be in the mix at the right end of the table, more often than not over the past couple of years the club have been stuck in the relegation mix following terrible starts to the season. That has not been the case this time around and hopefully after years of misery the Bradford faithful will finally have something to cheer and be proud about.

The home form had been superb and up until Port Vale arrived at the end of September boasted a 100% win record; Micky Adams men did a job on Bradford that day as the bizarrely prolific Tom Pope scored yet another goal. It was a soft goal to concede from Bradford’s point of view as skipper Gary Jones left a header back to the keeper short, allowing Pope to nip in and score – in fairness to the Port Vale striker he still had two defenders around him but still finished nicely.

York City followed Vale to Valley Parade a couple of weeks later and left with a point, Ashley Chambers scored a terrific half volley for the visitors but that was cancelled out by the equality terrific solo strike from Zavon Hines – the former West Ham youth and Burnley player has struggled for form since the opening weeks of the season, and it’s hoped that the goal against the league new boys will breathe new confidence into the winger.

On the road the results have been okay; the win at Northampton made it two wins on the road in the league this season for Bradford following their previous success against Oxford United, in a game which Bradford dominated the game to run out 2-0 winners in the Oxfordshire sunshine.

The following away league game took Bradford just over the pennines to Rochdale, traditionally The Bantams faithful turn out in force for this fixture and once again a huge away following watched on as Dale’s ten men hung on for a point. Bradford were well on top prior to Bobby Grant’s reckless first half lunge that gave the former Scunthorpe and Accrington striker his marching orders, unfortunately though City couldn’t break the stubborn Rochdale back line and left Spotland with a point knowing it should have been all three.

During the Rochdale game, left winger Kyel Reid went off injured early on. Had Reid been on the pitch for the full 90 minutes at Spotland I’m sure Bradford would have claimed all three points. In the previous game against Port Vale, influential midfielder and arguably Bradford’s player of the season so far Gary Jones injured his back, so it’s no surprise that Bradford have stuttered in recent weeks with Jones and Reid both watching from the stands. Both players had played a key role in the early season form which took City up to the edge of the automatic promotion places.

Parkinson last week moved into the transfer market as the first loanee of the season arrived at Valley Parade, Scottish left winger Craig Forsyth from Watford on a two month loan. Given the fact that Reid is likely to be out until late November early December it looks like Forsyth will be the man to make things tick on the left hand side. He put in a superb performance for the Hornets when Bradford travelled to Vicarage Road in the FA Cup third Round last season, in which he scored a brilliant individual goal and if the young winger can reproduce such form at Valley Parade over the coming weeks the blow of losing Reid will be soften significantly.

Away from the league, the cup competitions have also seen Bradford flourish. In the Capital One Cup The Bantams are into the fourth round, with their third away tie of the competition to be played against Premier League Wigan Athletic next Tuesday. The fixture against Wigan has already sold out with an away following of around 5,000 expected to descend on the JJB Stadium in hope of a huge cup upset.

Wins in the early rounds against Notts County and Watford set up a third round all League Two affair against Burton Albion. The Brewers raced undeservedly into a 2-0 lead at Valley Parade before half time. In the second half as the gaffer rolled the dice with the substitutions and his changes had the desired effect, Bermudan striker Nahki Wells netting late on before tapping home in stoppage time to send the game into extra time. Then with just minutes left former Liverpool trainee Stephen Darby drove home from 30 yards in off the post to score his first the club and to send the relatively small crowd into raptures.

In the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy came more cup progression and in equally dramatic fashion despite the game itself being a dire 0-0 draw. This time against League One strugglers Hartlepool United at the Victoria Ground. Jon McLaughlin, just like last season in the same competition, proved the goalkeeping hero saving from the spot as Bradford ran out 3-2 winners on penalties to set up a tie away at Port Vale in the next round.

Prior to the trip to face Hartlepool, the Bantams crashed to a 4-3 defeat at the hands of Dagenham. The Daggers raced into a 3-0 lead early in the second half before a spirited fight back by Bradford made the game 3-2 thanks to another Wells double, however against the run of play the Londoners made the game 4-2, before allowing Alan Connell to setup a grandstand finish when he made it 4-3 with a couple of minutes remaining.

Last Saturday, Bradford returned to winning ways at Valley Parade with a comprehensive 3-1 win over fellow promotion chasers Cheltenham. The Bantams came from a goal down to win, which included a superb team goal rounded off by Australian left back James Meredith rifling into the roof of the net to seal the points with the third of the afternoon for the home side.

Off the field Bermudan international striker Nahki Wells has signed a new long term deal. The young striker is one of the hottest young properties in the lower leagues and will no doubt play at a higher level one day – hopefully that’s with Bradford, but more realistically it will probably be elsewhere. The fact that Wells was going to be out of contract in the summer was worrying; would the board have cashed in on him during the January sales and with that hinder our ambition of promotion?

Thankfully that is one question we won’t have to answer now, as any club who wants him will have to pay good money for a striker who is bang in form and has eight league goals already to his name this season.

In conclusion it’s been a good start to the 2012-13 season for Phil Parkinson’s men. Hopefully, Bradford can stay consistent enough heading into the busy period of games leading up to Christmas and be firmly in the mix come the turn of the year, something which has not happened for quite some time.

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87

Four-tress Valley Parade

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

1957 was the year that previously held the record for Bradford’s best home league start to a season but the class of 2012/2013 has gone one better by notching up four straight home wins, and on the early season performances, won’t be stopping at four. Fleetwood, Wimbledon, Barnet and Morecambe have all left Valley Parade empty handed as City are looking to build a successful promotion push with a solid home record.

If someone had offered me 5th place by mid to late September then I’d of snapped their hands off, given the last few season’s struggles at the wrong end of the table it makes a pleasant change to see Bradford in the top half of the table never mind in the play-off places!

In bizarre fashion the 2012 / 2013 season opened up with the Capital One First Round tie at League One side Notts County. The fixture saw The Bantams knock out there higher league opponents thanks to James Hanson’s wonderful curling strike in extra time, the big man has started the season in sparkling form adding four league goals to his strike at Meadow Lane. The league season opened up with a tricky fixture at Gillingham, the game was played out in temperatures more a kin to that of the Costa Del Sol never mind Costa Del Gillingham. The Bantams succumbed to a 3-1 opening day defeat, however having been burnt to a crisp in the uncovered away stand, I came away from the ground in a position mood – despite losing the game, there was enough positives to suggest that it could be a good season for Bradford once the new team gelled together.

Back on home turf for the first home league game and Bradford got up and running with the points tally, a 1-0 home win over league new boys Fleetwood Town was deserved. Possibly catching The Cod Army at a good time before their newly assembled team had started to click and show why the bookies have them down as one of the promotion favourites. It was that man Hanson who scored the only goal under the lights at Valley Parade. One half of the new midfield partnership of ex Rochdale and Barnsley duo Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle went off to a standing ovation, the latter making his second home debut after previously spending time on the loan at the club was applauded off for his superb performance.

The Bantams could have racked up a cricket score in the next match. Wimbledon fresh from a mid week mauling against Burton Albion couldn’t do anything to stop a irresistible first half performance where City went in at half time 5-1 up. Goals from Nahki Wells, an own goal, a long range Andrew Davies free kick before Rory McArdle scored his first for the club after arriving from SPL side Aberdeen. Top scorer Hanson notched his third of the season on the stroke of half time.

Back in the Captial Cup, another higher league opposition crashed out at the hands of Bradford. However, unlike at Notts County where City deserved to go through and dominated the majority of the game. The 2-1 win at Watford could be classed as ‘a smash and grab’ two goals in the last five minutes from Kyel Reid and Gary Thompson fired The Bantams into the third round where the mouthwatering prospect of Man Utd, Man City and Arsenal could lie in wait so out of the hat pops…..Burton Albion, talk about an anti-climax!

What followed the win at Vicarage Road was to date the only major blip on what has been a very bright start to the season for Bradford. Of all the managers to crash to a 4-0 defeat to it had to be Steve Evans. Evans who had a well documented clash with City at Valley Parade last season whilst in charge at Crawley. Now in charge of Rotherham he once again got the better of Bradford, as City got royally played off the park – looking second best to their south Yorkshire opponents from the get go.

After the mauling at Rotherham, Phil Parkinson’s men have bounced back strongly. The Bantams got a point away at Accrington thanks to Alan Connell’s first for the club – the former Swindon striker raced onto James Hanson’s flick on before lobbing the ball home from 30 yards out sending the packed away end into raptures. The point against Stanley set up back to back home games against Barnet and Morecambe. The Barnet game saw a glut of three goals in ten second half minutes from Hanson, Connell and Davies sending a very poor Barnet team away empty handed. Barnet, in my opinion, looked one of the poorest sides I’ve ever seen and it will take a minor miracle for Mark Robson’s side to stay in the football league this season.

On Tuesday, as City looked for their best home start since 1957. A comprehensive 3-1 win and performance to match over Morecambe sent Bradford up to 5th in the league – chasing the automatic places down. Another goal from Hanson, before Reid and Jones settled it for City.

Off the field all is seemingly well at Valley Parade, no rumblings of discontent amongst the supporters or within the club as everyone seems to be pulling in the right direction. Back in the summer I was very impressed with the calibre of player that Phil Parkinson has managed to attract to the club and the early performances suggest that this is going to be a good season for The Bantams.

Away from City, but in a story connected to the club, saw Rotherham manager Steve Evans punished for his part in last season’s brawl against his former club Crawley. Evans was charged for inappropriate behavior, and whilst not knowing exactly what went on, the fact that the Scot was given a six game stadium ban would suggest his actions were extremely severe – I hope he enjoyed watching his side on soccer special against Rochdale the other night…poor Steve!

If Parky can get the away form a little better, and scrape a few wins on the road coupled with the fact that the home form to date has been perfect, there’s no reason why come May Bradford won’t be firmly in the promotion picture.

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87

New Dawn or False Hope?

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

After once again under achieving last season Bradford are preparing for life for a sixth successive season in the basement division. Last season’s poor showing of 18th leaves a lot of room for improvement going into the new season, a lot of the struggles were played to the back drop of a managerial and coaching changes, along with numerous personnel changes to the playing staff.

On paper the gaffer, Phil Parkinson who is entering his first full season at Valley Parade, has made some shrewd summer signings and whilst a ball hasn’t been kicked in anger just yet, it looks like City have a vastly improved playing squad this season, as opposed to the one lining up for the last campaign.

No fewer than nine players have signed on for the claret and amber since the final whistle of last season sounded. Parky has bolstered the defence with the likes of Stephen Darby from Liverpool and Rory McArdle from Aberdeen – McArdle was part of the Rochdale side that got promoted a couple of seasons ago, and it’s hoped he’ll play a key part for City this season. At left back James Meredith has arrived from York City, Meredith was a key player for Gary Mills side during their promotion winning side from the conference last season and by all accounts turned down clubs from higher up the leagues to sign on at Valley Parade.

The marquee signing for City, and possibly of the division was the return on a permanent deal of Andrew Davies from Stoke City. Davies spent the majority of last season on loan at Valley Parade and, despite getting sent off three times, one of those in the infamous ‘Battle of Valley Parade’ against Crawley, he was a regular shining light in a otherwise forgettable season. The fact that Davies was prepared to drop from the Premier League to League Two, and the likelihood of a probable (substantial) wage drop, just goes to show how much Davies wanted to stay at Bradford and try and bring success to the long suffering supporters.

In midfield the arrival of Rochdale stalwart and skipper Gary Jones is a massive boost and with Ricky Ravenhill out injured until November its likely Jones will take hold of the captain’s armband just like he did at Spotland. Garry Thompson has arrived from Scunthorpe United; Thompson originally turned Bradford down whilst at Morecambe in favour of a move to Glanford Park when he left Christie Park. Will Atkinson, who spent the second half of last season at Valley Parade, has arrived permanently on a free transfer from Hull City, the winger largely struggled to find form whilst on loan and it’s hoped that he’ll prove fans wrong who may already have written him off before a ball has been kicked for the coming season.

Another major coup in the transfer market for Parkinson was the arrival of former loanee and player of the year Nathan Doyle on a free transfer from our South Yorkshire neighbours in the Championship, Barnsley. Doyle ,who previously played for the club during a six month loan spell during the 2006/2007 season from then club Derby County, was a huge hit – such a hit that despite only playing in the claret and amber for half the season, he scooped the player of the year award. Either Parky is a good salesman or the pulling power of what could potentially be achieved at Bradford is attracting players to drop down the leagues and join the Parkinson revolution.

Up top Alan Connell has arrived from Swindon Town, Connell was top scorer for Paolo Di Canio’s champions last season and hopefully he can do the same for City this time around. Personally I see Connell as a backup striker to James Hanson and Nahki Wells; the latter is destined to be one of the stars of League Two this time around.

Whilst being very impressed with the caliber of signings that Parkinson has made so far, I still think the squad needs three possibly four players to bolster numbers for when suspensions and injuries start to impact on the squad.

The players that have departed Valley Parade personally I haven’t been too fussed about – one player I do feel will be missed is David Syers who opted to join Doncaster Rovers. Syers missed the majority of last season through injury but the year before had scooped Player of the Year in his first season in professional football and on his day was a key player for City.

Pre-season results have been impressive and comfortable victories against local non-league sides Tadcaster and Guiseley were either side of a week’s training camp in southern Ireland, In Ireland City beat Wexford and Bray. The training camp in Ireland will have helped build morale and camaraderie between the new and existing players, and hopefully, throughout the course of the coming season, the benefits of the camp will come to fruition.

Aside from the new additions to the squad, for me personally the star player has been on the books all along. Nahki Wells. Wells burst into the side half way through last season and seized the opportunity with both hands, without a doubt he’d have to be in the top five players in League Two to keep an eye on for the coming season. Wells has goals in the locker, pace to burn and a young fresh attitude to go with and if he can build on his impressive form during the course of the second half of last season, then not only will Wells propel his career forward then the likelihood is Bradford could also be moving in the right direction.

The league season kicks off in just over a week and a tricky game at Gillingham, which I am hoping will be the scene of Bradford’s first three points of the season. Time will tell, but if City are slow out of the starting blocks this season will that be disastrous? Not in my opinion with a host of new arrivals time will be needed to gel the players together. Hopefully the optimism that is bouncing around amongst the Bradford faithful is not misguided like in previous years.

Will the 2012/2013 season be another 10 months leading to disappointment or will the fortunes at Valley Parade finally turn after so many years of under-achievement? 46 games to go…

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87

End of Term Report – Could do better

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

At 5pm on Saturday against Swindon Town the Bradford City fans, players and all connected with the club looked on with envy as they watched a jubilant set of players in red and white celebrating with their fans as they leave League Two worthy champions. In stark contrast the City fans exited Valley Parade as the curtain draws on yet another season with the same feeling of previous campaigns – could do better.

Back in August before a ball had been kicked I was optimistic under Peter Jackson that Bradford had a chance of challenging for a play-off place, shows what I know given what has happened over the past ten months!

The opening month of the season hadn’t elapsed before Jacko left the club as Bradford became the first club in the Football League to change managers. For one game only Colin Cooper took temporary charge and guided the club to a comfortable win over Barnet. Cooper didn’t land the role permanently and shortly after ex-Charlton gaffer Phil Parkinson took over at Valley Parade, Cooper left to join the coaching staff at championship side Middlesbrough.

Throughout the course of the season the squad has evolved massively, the majority of the summer recruits have left or hardly featured under Parkinson as he brought in his own players. Prior to Jackson leaving he almost guided City to a memorable victory over Leeds in the Carling Cup as the Bantams dominated at Elland Road for a large portion of the match before running out of legs towards the end and narrowly losing 3-2.

From a personal point of view I’ve not been overly impressed with Parkinson as a whole this season but at the same time I do believe he is the right man to take City forward. Ultimately he’ll be judged more on next season rather than this campaign. Once he’s had a summer to bring in his own players and ship out the dead wood in the ranks I’ll be hopeful that City can at least compete towards a play-off place.

There have been a few highlights during the course of the season, the run to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy northern semi final was a highlight whilst it also enabled many City fans to have the bragging rights over their neighbours for a short period of time as Bradford knocked out Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United and Huddersfield Town all on penalties before crashing out away to Oldham which on paper would have been the easier tie compared to the previous three rounds.

Another major highlight has been the emergence of Bermudan striker Nahki Wells. The young striker has been a revelation since breaking into the side, and he is now a permanent fixture in attack. Wells was snapped up by Jackson on a free transfer last summer from Carlisle and if he keeps progressing I’m sure in due course bigger clubs will come sniffing around – hopefully the City board will have Wells tied down on a long term deal, so if clubs do come calling at least Bradford can benefit financially.

Elsewhere on the pitch giant defender Luke Oliver, who scooped nearly all Player of the Year awards for this season, has been consistently solid at the back. Under the failed regime of Peter Taylor, Oliver had been a far cry from being the fans favourite which he has now become. Playing out of position at times Oliver simply looked a liability but he is a completely different player now, clearly benefitting from playing in his natural position. Oliver has excelled at the back this season and his partnership with on loan Andrew Davies has been a plus point to Bradford’s season.

Aside from Wells and Oliver I struggled to pick out many other star performers from the season. The likes of Kyel Reid and Andrew Davies have done well, Reid in patches and Davies has been solid enough all season long. Let’s be honest with the squad City have they should have done significantly better this season.

On the pitch results have been inconsistent, hence the reason why City are likely to finish 18th. On any given day the Bantams have been capable of beating the top sides whilst being more than capable of getting turned over by the likes of Hereford and Macclesfield. Away from home results have been poor, with Bradford’s first away league win not coming until mid December away at Southend and ending the season with only four away wins to their name – if next season City are to be successful their away form needs to be significantly better.

At home their form has been good, only Crawley have left with three points in recent months. Prior to that the last team to take all three points from Valley Parade was Rotherham last November. Unfortunately though the Crawley game won’t be remembered for the Sussex side taking the three points, it will be remembered for the post-match brawl which brought national coverage to both sides for all the wrong reasons, City had three players sent off and Crawley two after the final whistle – subsequently Crawley had an extra player banned following an FA hearing.

As the curtain draws on this campaign, Parkinson has already started to show his hand with regards to letting players leave the club. Craig Fagan, Michael Flynn and Chris Mitchell have all left the club, whilst Steve Williams and Mark Stewert both on loan at Inverness and Hamilton respectively look set to leave the club permanently. With players leaving it frees up some of the budget immediately for Parkinson to bring in his own players. I would expect more players will be leaving Valley Parade over the coming weeks when the gaffer starts to fully implement his stamp on the side.

So everyone heads away for the summer holidays and the gates shut at Valley Parade for yet another season. Yes it has been disappointing on the whole but it won’t take long for the excitement and expectation to start building for next season once one or two signings arrive. Fingers crossed City can compete at the right end of the table, I for one am getting fed up of looking at the bottom end of the table and for a club the size of Bradford within League Two they should really be challenging at the right end of the table. That is the task Parky has for next season – and I generally hope he can give the long suffering Bradford fans the one thing they desperately crave, promotion out of the bottom division.

Written by Mark Scully, We Are Going Up’s Bradford City Blogger

Mark tweets at @scully87